Research: Bringing Up Baby In Colonial America

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written by: Lori Soard
Date: 2002

Colonial mother and baby
Colonial mother and baby

The colonists brought with them from Europe definite ideas on how to raise children.  They thought that infants were mere lumps of flesh to be shaped into human beings by their parents, both in body and soul

The first event after birth for a new baby was to be laid flat on the midwife’s lap.  The midwife would then press her hands on the baby’s tiny face, smoothing it out. She would pull the tiny nose to make it long, more like the nose of an adult. Next, she would squeeze together the bones of the baby’s head to try to make the soft spot close sooner.   She would pull the infant’s arms and legs straight and firmly wrap him/her.

It was believed that if children were permitted to grow unconstrained, they would never learn to walk upright.  So, from a young age, babies wore a corset (a type of undershirt which was stiffened with whalebone or other hard materials) . Also, a stiff board was belted onto baby’s back to keep the spine straight.

Babies were not allowed to crawl, because only animals went on all fours, however people walked erect. That is why both boys and girls were dressed in long robes and many layers of petticoats. Not only did such clothing make it harder for the child to crawl, it also kept him warm in winter.

The colonists used an apparatus resembling a modern baby walker, however, it had no seat. Babies were strapped into the device and forced to stay on their feet. If they grew weary and cried, they were usually ignored; people thought babies couldn’t feel pain or discomfort. They believed that babies cried to exercise their lungs. There was also the thought that the first lesson children should master was to be obedient in all ways. Therefore, if an adult wished for them to stand, they had to stand.

Usually, babies spent the first few weeks of their lives with their mothers. Childbirth was a perilous period of time for both mother and baby, for that reason the rest of the family took care of the household. This way the two of them could recuperate. Some families were not able to afford for an adult to take a few weeks off and these mothers were forced to return to work as soon as possible.

When babies started walking, busy parents were not able to keep an attentive vigil over them to prevent falls. So they were frequently fitted with a cap that was thickly padded to protect them when they fell. It was a big round hat called a “pudding”

1904 Cradle
1904 Cradle

Some babies slept in cradles, however it was more common for parents to use whatever materials were handy to make baby a bed:

A crate a box, or a few boards nailed together. The baby had to be kept warm, so during the day, the bed would be left close to the fireplace and at night baby would usually sleep with parents.

There weren’t many high chairs or furniture for children. There was limited time to make special furniture that would only be used for a short while.

When small, babies were usually bathed daily but as they grew older, they would be bathed about once a week, like the rest of the family. Due to limited washing water their diapers were not changed often. This caused them to suffer from severe diaper rash. Parents traded recipes for ointments to ease baby’s irritated skin.

Babyhood was brief in the colonies. By three years of age, children were expected to help the family. the would feed the chickens or wash dishes. The children were assigned chores to make them feel useful and because their help was actually needed.

 

Research: Pass The Iguana Tail, Please

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written by: Lori Soard
Date: 2002

iguanaOne of the most popular lizards, and often kept as a pet, is the common green iguana (Iguana, iguana). Its natural habitat spans from the lowlands of central Mexico to the southern tip of America. Igaunas have many fascinating features but probably the most utlized part of the iguana’s body is its tail. Not only does the iguana use the tail for protection, escape,and mating, but iguana tail is considered a delicacy in many part of Latin America.

The igauna’s tail is typically longer than the animal’s turnk. The tail accounts for more than half of the iguana’s overall length of almost six feet. The top of the tail has a row of flexible spines. These spines extend from the nape of the iguana’s neck to the tip of the tail. The row of spines is slightly higher in males.

These spines can be emplyed for protection. Iguanas use their tails as weapons, whipping them about. This thrashing motion helps to fend off enemies. The scales on the tip of the tail favor the teeth of a saw. When swung with adequate force, an iguana’s tail has been known to cut through cloth. Some larger iguanas have been seen knocking dogs off their feet by swinging their tails into the dogs’ legs.

Another feature of the iguana that allows it to escape a tricky situation is the ability to drop its tail. If seized from behind by an enemy, or what the iguana perceives as an enemy, he will drop his tail. The dropped tail will proceed to move for a while, hiding the attacker’s attention while the iguana escapes. Iguanas can regenerate their tails, but the tail will grow back a somewhat different color and the break line will be noticeable.

The tail also come in handy during mating when the male grasps the base of the female’s tail with one hind leg. He then bites firmly on her neck or head to immobilize her. He sways his head back and forth during mating, which lasts between one and twenty minutes.

Despite all these advantages of the iguana’s tail, there is one disadvantage from the iguana’s point of view. Iguana tail is considered a delicacy in many parts of Latin American and the animal has been hunted almost to extinction in several regions. They are known in many parts of Latin America as gaffina de palo, or chicken of the tree. It is said that the tail does indeed taste like roast chicken.

In areas where iguanas are still abundant, young boys will search the trees alongside a river, one of the iguanas favorite resting places, until they find a cluster of iguanas. One boy will climb the tree and frighten the animals, whose instinct is to fall into the water below. The other boys will then dive in and catch the lizards, who can stay submerged for up to half an hour.

The captured iguana are displayed at food stalls suspended by their hind legs while still alive. To the onlooker this seems to be gruesome, inhumane treatment of the animal. Luckily, where laws have been passed to protect iguanas their numbers seem to be increasing. However, they are seen as a valuable food source and research continues toward the origination of iguana ranches specifically designed to supply food.

The iguana’s tail is indeed a fascinating object. It is capable of cutting, dropping off, regenerating and even supplying food. it is no small wonder that so many owners find these lizards to be amazing and enjoyable pets.

One of the most popular lizards, and often kept as a pet, is the common green iguana (Iguana, iguana). Its natural habitat spans from the lowlands of central Mexico to the southern tip of America. Igaunas have many fascinating features but probably the most utlized part of the iguana’s body is its tail. Not only does the iguana use the tail for protection, escape,and mating, but iguana tail is considered a delicacy in many part of Latin America.

The igauna’s tail is typically longer than the animal’s turnk. The tail accounts for more than half of the iguana’s overall length of almost six feet. The top of the tail has a row of flexible spines. These spines extend from the nape of the iguana’s neck to the tip of the tail. The row of spines is slightly higher in males.

These spines can be emplyed for protection. Iguanas use their tails as weapons, whipping them about. This thrashing motion helps to fend off enemies. The scales on the tip of the tail favor the teeth of a saw. When swung with adequate force, an iguana’s tail has been known to cut through cloth. Some larger iguanas have been seen knocking dogs off their feet by swinging their tails into the dogs’ legs.

Another feature of the iguana that allows it to escape a tricky situation is the ability to drop its tail. If seized from behind by an enemy, or what the iguana perceives as an enemy, he will drop his tail. The dropped tail will proceed to move for a while, hiding the attacker’s attention while the iguana escapes. Iguanas can regenerate their tails, but the tail will grow back a somewhat different color and the break line will be noticeable.

The tail also come in handy during mating when the male grasps the base of the female’s tail with one hind leg. He then bites firmly on her neck or head to immobilize her. He sways his head back and forth during mating, which ~asts between one and twenty minutes.

Despite all these advantages of the iguana’s tail, there is one disadvantage from the iguana’s point of view. Iguana tail is considered a delicacy in many parts of Latin American and the animal has been hunted almost to extinction in several regions. They are known in many parts of Latin America as gaffina de palo, or chicken of the tree. It is said that the tail does indeed taste like roast chicken.

In areas where iguanas are still abundant, young boys will search the trees alongside a river, one of the iguanas favorite resting places, until they find a cluster of iguanas. One boy will climb the tree and frighten the animals, whose instinct is to fall into the water below. The other boys will then dive in and catch the lizards, who can stay submerged for up to half an hour.

The captured iguana are displayed at food stalls suspended by their hind legs while still alive. To the onlooker this seems to be gruesome, inhumane treatment of the animal. Luckily, where laws have been passed to protect iguanas their numbers seem to be increasing. However, they are seen as a valuable food source and research continues toward the origination of iguana ranches specifically designed to supply food.

The iguana’s tail is indeed a fascinating object. It is capable of cutting, dropping off, regenerating and even supplying food. it is no small wonder that so many owners find these lizards to be amazing and enjoyable pets.

Research: Marital Discord Essay

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written by: Margie Davis
Date: 1997

My philosophy of marriage probably was influenced by growing up in a dysfunctional family, watching how my parents stayed together despite (or to spite) their differences. I took the opposite approach and got married three times. I explain that I was practicing the first two times, and I have come to believe that. This third time is a charm and I do not want to do anything to mess it up.

Writer Jayne Ann Phillips once said in an interview, “Writers have permeable identities. They absorb things. And because of that, I think it’s a particular struggle to be involved in family life. I think I was like that in my primary family. I took on the identity of the members of the family. Writers often do that. And I spent 10 years working it out.” When I saw Phillips’s first sentence, the word ‘permeable’ jump-started my awareness. From an early age, I became the characters I read about. If a character was angry in the place where I left off reading, I would carry that anger around with me until I picked up the book again and read past the dissolution of her anger. If the character had cause to celebrate, so did I, and everyone around me enjoyed my ebullience until I continued reading.

Even though I wield the power to create characters in my short stories and novels, I find I cannot help but take on the emotions that my characters experience. My heightened empathy allows me to dig into their (and my) psyches to find the deeply-held feelings that I would be unable to concoct from imagination alone. In my last two novels I have centered the plot around problems in a marriage. My two practice marriages gave me abundant fodder for crafting such stories.

During the months I built the conflicts to precarious crescendos, my husband and I fought. We were able to find substantial as well as inconsequential issues to argue about. While the first novel, which had an ending that kept the couple married, was underway, I was dumb to the connection of plot and real life. However, in my current novel, which may find the wife and husband going separate ways at the end, a gnawing guilt has been building in the back of my mind that perhaps my plotting is to blame for my destructive behavior in my current marriage. For example, sometimes I find myself savoring the feelings of disharmony from a fight with my husband, burning the emotions into my memory so when I write my next chapter, anguish will pour freely from my nerve endings. Two months ago my mother died, and before that, her sickness and gradual letting go of life sidetracked me from working on my novel. For nearly three months now, my characters’ marriage has been in abeyance while my own marriage has grown solid once again.

My husband has been an emotional support for me during my grief, and that in itself has drawn us closer. I have also noticed, though, more of an acceptance on my part of the idiosyncrasies that are part and parcel of my husband. For example, he is bald on the top, but his bushy sides have needed cutting for several weeks, yet not once have I succumbed this time to calling him ‘Bozo.’ His little habits, like buttering the toast crooked, that irked me to the brink of insanity a few months ago, are mere annoyances once again. Until now, I have not admitted any responsibility for our discord, which leads me to wonder how honest other writers are about the crossover from fiction to reality and vice versa. Is my epiphany about a personal quirk, or does this admission sound a wake-up call to other writers on the verge of a marital breakdown? I believe the time has come for me to face an ultimatum: cease writing about marital woes, or go it alone.

If I hadn’t devoted so many years to practicing for this conjugal encore, I might charge ahead unencumbered by plotting restrictions and produce the next National Book Award for fiction. I have vowed, however, to myself and to my husband, that this time is for keeps. And so, I will have to develop characters who create drama in arenas other than their relationships, but what kind of conflict can compare with the soul-searing pursuit of love and acceptance that will still put me in the running for the National Book Award?